Colgate University went on lockdown and students were ordered to shelter in place for four hours Monday night while police investigated reports of a gunman on the upstate New York campus. But the “threat” turned out to be a student using a glue gun for an art project.
The campus lockdown occurred after reports that someone had “entered the O’Connor Campus Center while carrying what witnesses believed was a weapon,” said a statement from university spokesman Daniel DeVries.
The precautions on the campus of the private liberal arts college took place on the same day that an attacker armed with a hunting knife stabbed four people, killing one, on the Austin campus of the University of Texas. Police arrested a student over the attack.
But some Colgate students expressed concerns about suspected overreactions to the incident on their campus because the student with the glue gun is African-American.
As police scoured buildings at Colgate, a university of 2,900 undergraduates located in Hamilton about 40 miles from Syracuse, students said rumors spread that there were two gunmen, and one had committed suicide — none of which was true.
Shortly after early reports about sightings concerning a weapon at Colgate around 8 p.m., university administrators tweeted, “There is an armed person at the Coop. Find a safe space and remain indoors. If you are off-campus, stay away.” The Coop is a dining hall on campus.
During the lockdown, students in campus dorms were advised to keep their lights off to avoid attracting attention, a student told The Huffpost. The college finally lifted the shelter-in-place order shortly before midnight.
“After thorough investigation, and with the assistance of the person in question, law enforcement identified the individual as a student who was using a glue gun for an art project, confirmed the misunderstanding, and released the campus from lockdown,” said a Colgate statement.
“We understand that this has been a very upsetting evening on many levels. Students who wish to gather at the chapel to be together can do so tonight at 12:30 a.m.”
Some students expressed concerns on social media about the reaction to the student with the hot glue gun, and worried about what could have happened to him because of his race, particularly as rumors mounted.
Student Tolu Emokpae posted a comment on Facebook calling the lockdown “one large reaction to a report based purely off racial profiling.”
Miranda Robles posted, “I am glad things did not turn out to be as bad as we thought. However, this is extremely problematic and absurd. Why make such a big claim for there to be no proof? Could have gotten the student in serious trouble.”
The university did not identify the student, but Huffpost saw a video of him speaking on a cell phone ― apparently to someone investigating the situation ― explaining how he was holding a glue gun.
University President Brian Casey called for a thorough investigation into the incident:
An emergency situation involving reports of an individual allegedly carrying a gun has been resolved after a campus-wide search.
At approximately 8:00 p.m. this evening (May 1), an individual entered the O’Connor Campus Center while carrying what witnesses believed was a weapon. Campus Safety initiated a campus lockdown in response to these reports. After thorough investigation, and with the assistance of the person in question, law enforcement identified the individual as a student who was using a glue gun for an art project, confirmed the misunderstanding, and released the campus from lockdown.
We understand that this has been a very upsetting evening on many levels. Students who wish to gather at the chapel to be together can do so tonight at 12:30 a.m.
President Casey has asked for a full report of the sequence of events that led to tonight’s lockdown, and we will have those details as soon as possible tomorrow.